May 5, 2015
ggultra2764 (All reviews)
Back in the 1990s, Sailor Moon was the queen bee of popular shoujo titles by helping to popularize the magical girl genre to international fans and being the first series within the genre to feature a magical girl fighting against the forces of evil instead of using her magic to do fun and mundane things that older titles like Creamy Mami did. I was a sucker for the series when I was a kid during that period as I watched the butchered American syndicated version of the series released by Dic during the mid-90s. Our heroine of focus here is klutzy and book-dumb middle schooler Usagi Tsukino, who is tasked by a talking cat named Luna to become the magical girl known as Sailor Moon to thwart the evil activity of the witch Queen Beryl and her forces among the Dark Kingdom. Along the way, Usagi gains several additional allies to assist her with four other middle school girls who can become Sailor Senshi and a mysterious tuxedo-clad man named Tuxedo Mask who often pops up as a walking plot device to save Usagi whenever she gets in trouble against the "monster of the day".

Taking off the nostalgia goggles of watching this baby nearly 20 years later, I'd hate to say that Sailor Moon hasn't really aged all that well. All the character types and plot tropes that were milked by Sailor Moon during its heyday are a common part of many modern magical girl titles, many of whom offering more fleshing out of their plot and character elements than Sailor Moon does. Here, many of the characters are rather lacking in depth and have one-dimensional personalities with the good guys fighting for "love and justice" to save the world and the bad guys being evil for the sake of being evil. As a lead character, Usagi was rather obnoxious at many points in the series with her being ridiculously clueless, clumsy and crying incessantly if she ran into some sort of problem, which makes it kind of questionable why this would make her a character relateable to younger female audiences. Even with the romance Sailor Moon dabbles into at points, the relationship developments are either not convincing or are too underdeveloped to get seriously invested in thanks to the rather shallow character depth.

The plot mostly follows a "monster of the day" format that takes up much of the show's run with Usagi stumbling upon the monster's plot, transforming to combat them, often getting herself in trouble, having Tuxedo Mask save her in the nick of time and then uses her powers to finish off the monster. Later episodes do slightly pick up in quality when revelations concerning the origins of Usagi and her friends come to light and the stakes are raised with Beryl trying to further her plans. But the series still resorts to monster of the day plots for many of its episodes and milks enough deus ex machina in thwarting perilous situations that Usagi and the other Sailor Senshi get themselves into. Pretty much, the series is very predictable with its plot developments if you've seen your fair share of anime.

Visually, Toei was obviously running Sailor Moon on a limited budget with the reused animated frames, underwhelming action scenes, minimal detail on scenery and plain-looking character designs. The soundtrack isn't much better as much of it consists of bland and low-key tracks that don't do too well at effectively capturing the mood and tension within Sailor Moon's key scenes. I might get quite a bit of flak for this from purists, but I much preferred DIC's soundtrack to Sailor Moon since it at least attempted to capture some sort of mood during key scenes in spite of how cheesy it is nowadays.

Overall, I suppose I don't get what makes Sailor Moon all that popular with fans. Sure it popularized magical girl titles. But the character archetypes and storytelling tropes within it haven't aged well and are a common occurrence in many modern magical girl titles, a number of whom offering better fleshing out of their premise and characters than Sailor Moon, like Cardcaptor Sakura and Princess Tutu. I would sooner recommend those titles and a number of other modern magical girl titles than Sailor Moon and I don't feel pressed to dig into the later seasons of the franchise anytime soon.